30 April 2010

New Treatment For PTSD Symptoms

Finding an effective treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder has been a top Pentagon priority for years. And with an estimated one in five veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan suffering from PTSD, the military’s been willing to consider anything and everything, including yoga, dog therapy and acupuncture, to alleviate symptoms. But a small new study out of Walter Reed Army Medical Center might offer more than temporary relief — with nothing more than a quick jab to the neck.

It’s a procedure called stellate ganglion block (STB), and involves injecting local anesthetic into a bundle of nerves located in the neck. The bundle are a locus for the sympathetic nervous system, which regulates the body’s “fight-or-flight” stress response.

Led by Lieutenant Colonel Sean Mulvaney, Pentagon scientists gave STB injections to two soldiers, one on active duty and another who’d been suffering from PTSD symptoms since serving in the Gulf War nearly two decades ago. Their study reports that both men “experienced immediate, significant and durable relief” after the 10-minute procedure, and no longer exhibit symptoms that would qualify them for a PTSD diagnosis. Seven months later, both had successfully stopped using antidepressant and antipsychotic medications with the guidance of a psychiatrist.

While the research out of Walter Reed only tested two patients, a Chicago-based doctor named Eugene Lipov is already conducting his own double-blind trial on war-vet volunteers. One of his patients, 28-year-old John Sullivan, found little relief with prescription anti-anxiety meds. But the former Marine Corps Sergeant told ABC News that the STB injection completely eliminated his nightmares, flashbacks and ongoing anxiety. “[It was] not painful and the results were within five minutes — I felt more relaxed and calmed down. It’s been great.”

Lipov has also conducted before-and-after brain scans on patients. Those suffering from PTSD usually exhibit characteristic “hot spots” that light up when a patient is exposed to violent imagery. After an STB treatment, the brains of PTSD patients no longer displayed the abnormal reactions.

Read more at Wired

Fart-Absorbing Blanket

Almost everyone knows the silent but deadly effects of flatulence on relationships. For couples, nothing can spoil the romantic aura more quickly! It can be funny but it can also be a nuisance.

The Better Marriage Blanket is made using the same kind of activated carbon fabric found in Military Chemical Suits.

As a science teacher, I had used activated carbon in my laboratory lessons and was aware that chemicals and gasses are absorbed in millions of microscopic pores in each tiny particle of activated carbon ... This principal [sic] is what makes The Blanket so effective! Activated Carbon is well known in Science and Industry for its odor absorbing properties. It is safe and non-allergenic.

This beautifully made, soft, warm, medium weight, 300 thread count comforter will work for many years. It can be machine washed normally and is dry cleanable. Simply drying in an electric dryer or in the sun will re-activate the odor absorbing qualities of the carbon. Be sure to read the Testimonials!
YouTube via Buzzfeed

Using Oxytocin To Treat Schizophrenia?

A nasal spray can make men more in tune with other people's feelings, say a team of German and UK researchers. They found that inhaling the "cuddle hormone" oxytocin made men just as empathetic as women. The study in 48 volunteers also showed that the spray boosted the ability to learn from positive feedback.

Writing in the Journal of Neuroscience, the researchers said the spray may be useful for boosting behaviour therapy in conditions such as schizophrenia.

Oxytocin is a naturally produced hormone, most well-known for triggering labour pains and promoting bonding between mother and baby. But it has also been shown to play a role in social relations, sex and trust.

Study leader Professor Keith Kendrick, a neuroscientist at Cambridge University, said by giving the hormone nasally, it quickly reaches the brain.

In the first part of the study, half the men received a nose spray containing oxytocin and half were given a dummy spray. They were then shown photos of emotionally charged situations including a crying child, a girl hugging her cat, and a grieving man, and were asked questions about the depth of feeling they had towards the subjects. Those who had the hormone spray had markedly higher levels of empathy - of a similar magnitude to those only usually seen in women who are naturally more sensitive to the feelings of others. Neither group were able to accurately guess whether they had received the oxytocin or the dummy spray.

Read more at BBC News

Via Gawker

28 April 2010

Just In Time For Mother's Day

YouTube via Boing Boing

Bacon Camp | San Francisco | 8 May

Do you add a little bacon to everything you eat? Are your friends blown away by your bacony-creations? Can you build a sculpture out of bacon? BaconCamp is for you! Compete to be master of pork belly and a chance to star in your very own Lipitor commercial!

BaconCamp is a community-driven gathering bringing together chefs and bacon enthusiasts. It is an interactive event filled with discussions, demos and delicious treats with proceeds going to the San Francisco Food Bank!

... Everyone is encouraged to participate by presenting (food, art, demo), judging, or volunteering. BaconCamp is not a spectator sport. Last year BaconCamp brought in more than 40 presentations and more than 300 participants.
Mmmmmmm ... bacon.

Laughing Squid

Happy Hump Day

Chicago Tribune | June 8, 1900

Josh Blackman's Blog via Scribal Terror

Muppet Cupcakes

Link via Buzzfeed

27 April 2010

Do Chimpanzees Understand Death?

After the death of her mother, Rosie had a fitful night, tossing and turning and getting up frequently.

That afternoon, Rosie, 20, and her mother's long-time companion, Blossom, 50, had tended to her mother as she lay dying, frequently stroking her hands and arms. Blossom's son had arrived just around the time of death and checked the body, shaking a lifeless arm. For days after the death, the three of them were relatively quiet, had little appetite and avoided the place where Rosie's mom had died.

Such a scenario has surely played out countless times in the course of human history, but the scene above comes from a new paper describing a rare documented death of an old infirmed chimpanzee and the reactions of her close family and companions. The death and surrounding chimp activity were captured on video cameras and are described in a paper published online April 26 in the journal Current Biology.
Link to video

More at Scientific American

Ethical Issues | Social Networks And Therapy

One of the newest medical ethics dilemmas is the collision between the Internet and the traditionally strict boundaries between patients and doctors. Caregivers, especially psychiatrists and therapists, have historically disclosed personal information only when it might benefit a patient — as when a patient is struggling with the loss of a child and the therapist discloses that he, too, has experienced such a loss.

Likewise, patients have typically disclosed personal details in their own time, as therapy continues and trust develops. The Web challenges that model head-on.

Facebook, founded in February 2004, now has more than 400 million active users. MySpace, founded a month earlier, has 100 million. Google.com, the search engine founded in 1998, currently handles 100 billion searches per day.

There's no question that Internet searches can be an important tool for healthcare consumers. "Patients should Google their doctors, to check on credentials, training, scholarly articles and the like," says Dr. Daniel Sands, the senior medical director of clinical informatics for the Internet Business Solutions Group at networking giant Cisco Systems.

But what about the reverse — doctors searching patients? "Why would they ever want to?" asks Sands, also a physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

... Ultimately, issues of Internet searching and connecting must be judged by the fact that the relationship between a patient and a doctor should be "professional," says Jeffrey E. Barnett, a psychologist at Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore.

Among other things, he says, that means "you have to think carefully about boundaries" and to err on the side of avoiding certain types of "multiple relationships," such as being close social friends, business partners or, in the worst case, sexual partners. Such relationships can in particular threaten the trust that is the foundation of psychotherapy.
Read more of Judy Foreman's article in the LA Times

Via The Awl

Morphine-Synthesizing Pathway Found In Mice

Mammals make their own morphine, a new study shows.

Scientists have known for decades that people excrete some morphine in their urine, but most people assumed that the pain-killing drug came from the diet or drug use. A new study shows that mice, and probably humans and other mammals, can make morphine from scratch.

“This paper now really shows that the whole pathway [to synthesize morphine] operates in the mouse,” says Heinz Floss, an emeritus biochemist at the University of Washington in Seattle who was not involved in the work. The study, published online the week of April 26 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, also shows that the body rapidly uses up morphine’s building blocks by breaking them down or converting them to other chemicals, which helps explain why it has been difficult to determine whether people make the compound, says Floss.

No one yet knows why the body makes morphine, but researchers suspect it could be a natural painkiller or perhaps is used to help nerve cells communicate with each other. Where the morphine is made also remains a mystery.
Read more at Wired

26 April 2010

"The Scientific Case For Alien Life"

For much of the past century, the realm of alien conspiracy theories has been inhabited primarily by academics and recluses, both widely dismissed as crackpots. Despite the billions of dollars poured into its space program, the American government has never even openly discussed the issue. But with the scientific community suddenly coming around to the premise of alien life, is this suddenly a legitimate dialogue?

Over the past year or so, more and more reputable scientists have begun voicing their opinions on extraterrestrial life, legitimizing the kind of discussions previously indigenous to internet chat rooms. The single-biggest contribution to the scientific argument for alien life may have just recently come from noted astrophysicist and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Stephen Hawking. In a recent documentary film, Hawking doesn’t simply share his depiction of alien life, but strongly urges against engaging them. In the Discovery Channel documentary, Hawking refers to these aliens as “nomads looking to conquer and colonize.” And in one sound bite, a concept considered half-baked by many so-called “experts” may have just been validated.

Hawking isn’t the first high-profile scientist to attest to the existence of aliens. Late last year, Lachezar Filipov, director of the Space research Institute of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, stated that aliens were already living around us and watching us without malice or hostility. Part of an Academy publication regarding communicating with other life forms, the ideas espoused by Filipov proved quite controversial among Bulgarian politicians. A toned-down version of this theory was revealed in January by Arizona State University physicist Paul Davies, who believes that some microbes on our planet may be derived from alien civilizations. Shortly after Davies’ public assertion, Cardiff University professor Chandra Wickramasinghe claimed there was new research showing that human life started somewhere other than the planet earth.

In the past year, the search for alien life has become a growing fascination for the scientific community, even resulting in an alien conference hosted at Cambridge University. Part of the reason for this sudden engagement from the scientific community comes from new technology enabling a more-thorough search for other habitable zones in the cosmos. While scientists were previously railing against the idea of alien life forms, the past year alone has seen a variety of scientifically-based alien theories. With this division between science and Star Trek suddenly evaporating, your UFO skepticism could start becoming downright ignorant.
Big Think (lots of links in the original article)

Gays No Longer Classfied As Deviants In California

California lawmakers have voted to modify a decades-old law that classifies gays as sexual deviants and calls for research on the causes of homosexuality. Supporters say a change was long overdue in the law, which was written in 1950 in reaction to a series of sex crimes, including the molestation and murder of a 6-year-old girl in Los Angeles. The law classifies gays as sexual deviants and requires the state to conduct research to find the causes of sex crimes against children. It also singles out gays as a group that should be studied, and calls for research into a cure for homosexuality.

The bill, approved 62-0 Monday by the state Assembly, changes that law by removing all references to homosexuals in the provision that calls for research. The measure now goes to the state Senate.
AP via Gawker

"Separate Truths"

At least since the first petals of the counterculture bloomed across Europe and the United States in the 1960s, it has been fashionable to affirm that all religions are beautiful and all are true. This claim, which reaches back to “All Religions Are One” (1795) by the English poet, printmaker, and prophet William Blake, is as odd as it is intriguing. No one argues that different economic systems or political regimes are one and the same. Capitalism and socialism are so self-evidently at odds that their differences hardly bear mentioning. The same goes for democracy and monarchy. Yet scholars continue to claim that religious rivals such as Hinduism and Islam, Judaism and Christianity are, by some miracle of the imagination, both essentially the same and basically good.

This view resounds in the echo chamber of popular culture, not least on the “Oprah Winfrey Show” and in Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestseller, “Eat Pray Love,” where the world’s religions are described as rivers emptying into the ocean of God. Karen Armstrong, author of “A History of God,” has made a career out of emphasizing the commonalities of religion while eliding their differences. Even the Dalai Lama, who should know better, has gotten into the act, claiming that “all major religious traditions carry basically the same message.”

Of course, those who claim that the world’s religions are different paths up the same mountain do not deny the undeniable fact that they differ in some particulars. Obviously, Christians do not go on pilgrimage to Mecca, and Muslims do not practice baptism. Religious paths do diverge in dogma, rites, and institutions. To claim that all religions are basically the same, therefore, is not to deny the differences between a Buddhist who believes in no god, a Jew who believes in one God, and a Hindu who believes in many gods. It is to deny that those differences matter, however. From this perspective, whether God has a body (yes, say Mormons; no, say Muslims) or whether human beings have souls (yes, say Hindus; no, say Buddhists) is of no account because, as Hindu teacher Swami Sivananda writes, “The fundamentals or essentials of all religions are the same. There is difference only in the nonessentials.”

This is a lovely sentiment but it is untrue, disrespectful, and dangerous ... We pretend that religious differences are trivial because it makes us feel safer, or more moral. But pretending that the world’s religions are the same does not make our world safer. Like all forms of ignorance, it makes our world more dangerous, and more deadly.
Read the rest of this article by Stephen Prothero at The Boston Globe

Via Arts & Letters Daily

25 April 2010

Happy 20th Birthday, Hubble

Carina Nebula
NASA's best-recognized, longest-lived, and most prolific space observatory zooms past a threshold of 20 years of operation this month.

22 April 2010

Deadly Airborne Fungus Spreads In Northwest

Cryptococcus gattii is an airborne fungus usually found in the tropics. But researchers announced today that new, deadly strains are thriving in Oregon, and spreading. These strains kill 25% of people who come into contact with them.

A paper published this afternoon in PLoS Pathogens offers details on the new strain of C. gattii, and how it came to the Pacific Northwest. After several local animals died from exposure to the airborne fungus, researchers realized that this wasn't an imported problem - the animals had lived their whole lives in Oregon, so they couldn't have been exposed in the tropics. There must be a local version of the toxic fungus. They gathered a sample and examined its genome, only to discover that this was a new strain of an already-virulent lifeform. They dubbed these strains VGII.

Said researcher Edmond Byrnes III:

This novel fungus is worrisome because it appears to be a threat to otherwise healthy people. Typically, we more often see this fungal disease associated with transplant recipients and HIV-infected patients, but that is not what we are seeing yet.

How did a tropical toxin wind up in Oregon? The researchers believe climate change may have something to do with it. Plus, these new strains are probably better adapted to the region. They likely evolved from an outbreak of C. gattii in British Columbia in 1999. The fungus then spread to Washington and Oregon.
Read more at Io9 and PLoS Pathogens

20 April 2010

Tea Party Jesus

The authors of the blog Tea Party Jesus put "the words of Christians in the mouth of Christ." At the site, viewers can click on each quote to see who said it.

According to Snopes.com, former First Lady Barbara Bush made the above remark during an interview on Good Morning America in 2003.

Via Dangerous Minds

19 April 2010

What Is The Memory Capacity Of The Human Brain?

Paul Reber, professor of psychology at Northwestern University, replies to a question submitted to Scientific American by a reader:

The human brain consists of about one billion neurons. Each neuron forms about 1,000 connections to other neurons, amounting to more than a trillion connections. If each neuron could only help store a single memory, running out of space would be a problem. You might have only a few gigabytes of storage space, similar to the space in an iPod or a USB flash drive. Yet neurons combine so that each one helps with many memories at a time, exponentially increasing the brain’s memory storage capacity to something closer to around 2.5 petabytes (or a million gigabytes). For comparison, if your brain worked like a digital video recorder in a television, 2.5 petabytes would be enough to hold three million hours of TV shows. You would have to leave the TV running continuously for more than 300 years to use up all that storage.

The brain’s exact storage capacity for memories is difficult to calculate. First, we do not know how to measure the size of a memory. Second, certain memories involve more details and thus take up more space; other memories are forgotten and thus free up space. Additionally, some information is just not worth remembering in the first place.

This is good news because our brain can keep up as we seek new experiences over our lifetime. If the human life span were significantly extended, could we fill our brains? I’m not sure. Ask me again in 100 years.


Imagine you could draw musical instruments on normal paper with any pencil (cheap circuit thumb-tacked on) and then play them with your finger. The Drawdio circuit-craft lets you MacGuyver your everyday objects into musical instruments: paintbrushes, macaroni, trees, grandpa, even the kitchen sink ... Drawdio brings to life the everyday interconnections between people and environment, encouraging you to use your sense of touch, and letting you hear otherwise invisible electrical connections by creating, remixing, and playing.
YouTube via Presurfer

Graffiti Analysis 2.0

Graffiti Analysis 2.0: Digital Blackbook from Evan Roth on Vimeo.

Graffiti Analysis is an extensive ongoing study in the motion of graffiti. Custom software designed for graffiti writers creates visualizations of the often unseen motion involved in the creation of a tag. Motion data is recorded, analyzed and archived in a free and open database, 000000book.com, where writers can share analytical representations of their hand styles. Influential graffitis artist such as SEEN, TWIST, AMAZE, KETONE, JON ONE and KATSU have had their tags motion captured using the Graffiti Analysis software. All tags created in Graffiti Analysis are saved as Graffiti Markup Language (GML) files, a new digital standard used by other popular graffiti applications such as Laser Tag and EyeWriter. Graffiti Analysis 2.0 is an open source project that is available online for free in OSX, Windows and Linux. Graffiti writers are invited to capture and share their own tags, and computer programmers are invited to create new applications and visualizations of the resulting data ... The project aims to build the world's largest archive of graffiti motion and bring together two seemingly disparate communities that share an interest hacking systems, whether found in code or in the city.
Coudal Partners

18 April 2010

The Ross Sisters | Amazing Contortionists

The Ross Sisters (Aggie, Maggie, and Elmira) were singing acrobatic contortionist triplets who rose to brief fame in the 1940s. The scene above is from a 1944 MGM musical entitled “Broadway Rhythm.” The term “solid” was period slang for “excellent” ... watch beyond the first minute of the video to see the rather remarkable athleticism of these young ladies.
Very bend-y.

YouTube via Neatorama

Garden Of Cosmic Speculation

Universe Cascade
Snail Mound
Black Hole
Snail-shaped grass mounds, twisting DNA helix sculptures and undulating waves of rhododendrons make up The Garden of Cosmic Speculation, a thirty-acre garden designed by architecture theorist Charles Jencks and his late wife, Maggie Keswick.

Located at their private residence, Portrack House, near Dumfries, Scotland, the garden's design is guided by the fundamentals of modern physics and, according to Jencks, brings out the basic elements that underlie the cosmos. From 1989 until Keswick's death in 1995, Jencks and his wife, an expert on Chinese gardens, met with horticulturists and scientists in order to design a landscape that would bridge the worlds of art, nature and science.

Perhaps viewed as an unconventional approach to landscaping, the garden features a dizzying display of geometric fractals that all illuminate - or at least are inspired by - concepts of black holes, string theory, and the "Big Bang." The garden features five major areas connected by a number of man-made lakes, bridges and other architectural works, including large white staircases and terraces that zigzag down a green hillside, representing the story of the creation of the universe.

Jencks continued work on the garden through 2007. Today, it is open to the public one day a year through the Scotland's Gardens Scheme and helps to raise money for Maggie's Centres, a cancer care foundation named after Jenck's late wife.
Photos: Paulus Maximus | Flickr

Atlas Obscura via Neatorama

16 April 2010

Children With Williams Syndrome Do Not Form Racial Stereotypes

From Nature

Prejudice may seem inescapable, but scientists now report the first group of people who seem not to form racial stereotypes. Children with a neurodevelopmental disorder called Williams syndrome (WS) are overly friendly because they do not fear strangers. Now, a study shows that these children also do not develop negative attitudes about other ethnic groups, even though they show patterns of gender stereotyping found in other children. "This is the first evidence that different forms of stereotypes are biologically dissociable," says Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg, director of the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim, Germany, who led the study published today in Current Biology.

Adults with WS show abnormal activity in a brain structure called the amygdala, which is involved in responding to social threats and triggering unconscious negative emotional reactions to other races. Racial bias has been tied to fear: adults are more likely to associate negative objects and events, such as electric shocks, with people of other ethnic groups compared with those of their own group. But according to Meyer-Lindenberg, his latest study offers the strongest evidence so far that social fear leads to racial stereotyping.
More at Nature

Via 3 Quarks Daily

Virtual View | Winscape

Winscape is a DIY project for you: install two HD plasmas in faux window frames that display whatever scene you’d rather see out your window. Using a Wiimote, the setup even detects your position in the room and shifts the perspective screens' high-resolution video to create the illusion of looking out a real window.

The kit, which will run $2,500-$3,000 from Rational Craft, aims to transport you to wherever you want to be, be it San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park or the view from the Space Shuttle. You can even collect your own footage of your favorite places and cycle through them throughout the day. An IR-emitting necklace keeps track of your position in the room, shifting the vista on the screen to simulate the real sensation of looking out the window.
More at Popular Science

Thanks, Rick

15 April 2010

Massive Fireball In Midwestern Skies

Authorities in several Midwestern states were flooded Wednesday night with reports of a gigantic fireball lighting up the sky ... "The fireball was visible for about 15 minutes beginning about 10 p.m.," said the National Weather Service in Sullivan, Wisconsin, just west of Milwaukee. "The fireball was seen over the northern sky, moving from west to east," said the NWS in the Quad Cities area, which includes parts of Iowa and Illinois.

"Well before it reached the horizon, it broke up into smaller pieces and was lost from sight. Several reports of a prolonged sonic boom were received from areas north of Highway 20, along with shaking of homes, trees and various other objects including wind chimes," the service said. The fireball was seen across parts of Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. CNN affiliate WISN-TV said that people in Ohio also saw it.

Video from WISN showed a massive ball of light exploding across the sky. The Doppler Radar from the Quad Cities weather service appeared to capture a portion of the smoke trail from the fireball at just after 10 p.m. ... It appears as a thin line extending across portions of Grant and Iowa Counties in Wisconsin.

There has been no official determination as to what caused the fireball, the NWS in Sullivan said. However ... there is a meteor shower called Gamma Virginids that occurs from April 4 to April 21, with peak activity expected on Wednesday and Thursday. "A large meteorite could have caused the brilliant fireball that has been reported," the National Weather Service said ... it was unknown if any part of a meteorite hit the ground.

According to NASA, a meteor appears when a meteoroid -- a particle, chunk of metal or stony matter -- enters the Earth's atmosphere from outer space. "Air friction heats the meteoroid so that it glows and creates a shining trail of gases and melted meteoroid particles ... People sometimes call the brightest meteors fireballs."
CNN on YouTube

14 April 2010

The Bunny Whisperer

Cliff Penrose has the magic touch when it comes to anxious bunnies.
Mr Penrose, a 60-year-old grandfather, uses his skills to prepare sick rabbits for surgery or simply to calm those showing signs of stress. This has placed him in great demand among his local vets in St Austell, Cornwall.

After making a high-pitched squeak to get the rabbit's attention, Mr Penrose strokes it and applies a little pressure to the body, giving a gentle massage. Having relaxed it in this way, he 'bows' to the animal by lowering his head so it does not feel threatened. He then closes its eyelids, leaving it perfectly still and in a trance-like state. 'You can tell when a rabbit is under because his back legs completely relax,' he said. The creature is unable to move. They emerge from a trance a happier, more relaxed pet.'

Mr Penrose, who has 50 bunnies of his own, and does not charge for his services, continued: 'You have to be confident when holding the animals. If you are scared or nervous or stressed then the rabbit will sense that - they are extremely intelligent animals. Once I'm holding the animal, it is only a matter of seconds before they are totally relaxed.'

Mr Penrose said he had bred rabbits for 30 years but began developing his hypnotising skills when he retired from his processing job at a China clay firm and spent more time with his pets. 'I discovered that if I was in a bad mood the rabbits would react to that and become fidgety and unruly, but if I was having a good day they would be calm and no trouble.'

Since mastering his technique, Mr Penrose has put hundreds of rabbits under his spell and even has a dedicated telephone hotline for troubled owners. Apart from preparing animals for surgery, he also deals with 'problem' rabbits which display behavioural issues and insists a little 'hopnotism' can have a strong calming effect on hyperactive or aggressive pets, even extending their life expectancy.
Daily Mail via Jezebel

"A Birthday Treat, Hired By Mum And Dad"

Dominic Deville stalks young victims for a week, sending chilling texts, making prank phone calls and setting traps in letterboxes. He posts notes warning children they are being watched, telling them they will be attacked.

But Deville is not an escaped lunatic or some demonic monster. He is a birthday treat, hired by mum and dad, and the ‘attack’ involves being splatted in the face with a cake. ‘The child feels more and more that it is being pursued,’ said Deville.

‘The clown’s one and only aim is to smash a cake into the face of his victim, when they least expect it, during the course of seven days.’ If the boy or girl manages to avoid the ‘hit’, they are given the cake as a birthday present. Well, that’s alright then.

The frightening fun can be stopped at any time, which is handy for parents who have second thoughts and don’t fancy the cost of child therapy. Deville said: ‘The clown will never break into a residence or show up at work. ‘It’s all in fun and if, at any point, the kids get scared or their parents are concerned, we stop right there. ‘But most kids absolutely love being scared senseless.’

Deville set up his Evil Clown service in Lucerne, Switzerland, after being inspired by some of his favourite horror films – possibly including Stephen King’s It and Killer Klowns From Outer Space. The idea is unlikely to be popular with sufferers of coulrophobia – the irrational (irrational?) fear of clowns. But Stephen Vaughan of Clowns International, said scary clowns could be as funny as their red-nosed counterparts. ‘I think what Dominic is doing is a great idea,’ he added. ‘Bringing a little bit of life and laughter into kids’ lives is what we are all about.’
Metro via The Awl

13 April 2010

They Walk Among Us

According to a recent poll, twenty per cent of the world's population believes that aliens inhabit Earth disguised as humans.
The Reuters Ipsos poll of 23,000 adults in 22 countries showed that more than 40 percent of people from India and China believe that aliens walk among us disguised as humans, while those least likely to believe in this are from Belgium, Sweden and the Netherlands (8 percent each).

However, the majority of people polled, or 80 percent, don't believe aliens in our midst. "It would appear that that there's a modest correlation between the most populated countries and those more likely to indicate there may be aliens disguised amongst them compared with those countries with the smaller populations," said John Wright, Senior Vice President of market research firm Ipsos. "Maybe the it's a simple case that in a less populated country you are more likely to know your next door neighbor better," he said.

More men than women -- 22 percent vs 17 percent -- believe that alien beings are on earth. Most of those believers are under the age of 35, and across all income classes, the survey showed. Of those who do not believe, most are women.
Reuters via Presurfer

Magic Wand Remote Control

The Magic Wand Remote Control from Kymera is a button-free wand-shaped remote controlled entirely by your gestures. Swoosh it one way and the channel changes, spin it another and you can switch from TV to DVD. With 13 different programmable movements.
The Wand Company via Urlesque

12 April 2010

Paranormal Investigation In Fells Point

Robert Long House | 812 South Ann Street | Fells Point
A group of paranormal investigators based in the nation’s capitol, has been asked to investigate four historic, haunted properties in Baltimore’s Fells Point neighborhood. The Preservation Society of Federal Hill and Fells Point requested the investigations in order to determine the truth behind the many reports of ghostly sounds, sights, and smells at these properties over the years.

The Robert Long House, constructed around 1765, is the oldest urban residence still standing in Baltimore, while the Merchants House dates from circa 1800. The old hotel, now the Fells Point Visitors Center, is more accurately described as a former saloon and brothel that served the sailors in this active port city. Staff and visitors have experienced paranormal phenomena in all these locations, as well as in the nearby Horse Car Barn.

“We’re very excited about this opportunity,” R.I.P. President Patricia Marin stated. “We’ve investigated a number of historic sites before and we’re looking forward to seeing what we can discover in Fells Point.” The group uses both scientific and occult methodologies to uncover paranormal activities. Along with employing various types of equipment, R.I.P. also has two mediums on the team, one of whom is a federal law enforcement agent in his day job. “We have high standards of proof for paranormal activities,” explained Lisa Linden, R.I.P. Co-Founder.

R.I.P.’s first investigation of the Robert Long House and the Merchants House begins the evening of April 24th and may last all night. This investigation is being filmed for an episode of “The R.I.P. Files,” the group’s new Internet TV series which will debut on Ghost Channel TV (www.ghostchannel.tv) and on blip.tv this spring.
Read more about haunted Fells Point at Phantoms and Monsters

Via The Anomalist

Cats Wearing Wigs

For L and the FoLs

11 April 2010

Famous Atheists Plan To Have Pope Arrested

Richard Dawkins, the atheist campaigner, is planning a legal ambush to have the Pope arrested during his state visit to Britain “for crimes against humanity”. Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, the atheist author, have asked human rights lawyers to produce a case for charging Pope Benedict XVI over his alleged cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic church. The pair believe they can exploit the same legal principle used to arrest Augusto Pinochet, the late Chilean dictator, when he visited Britain in 1998.
Read more at The Sunday Times

Via Blag Hag

Rosie's Secret Visits

Rosie's story is a heartwarming tale that makes you realize dogs have interior lives we sometimes know very little about, if anything at all. Her owners sent it to me recently. She knows about showing up when you're needed and helping when others are too weak to help themselves. Her owner Valli writes from Rockland, Maine:

I have a 130 pound Newfoundland named Rosie. When I brought her home as a puppy she became good friends with my next door neighbor, Mary. Mary had grown up in Newfoundland and instantly fell in love with this black fluffy puppy.

She took her for walks and would let her out of the back yard fence for a tussle many afternoons.

About a year after we got Rosie, Mary fell ill with lung cancer. For awhile she seemed to be doing well after chemo and radiation. When the cancer returned, Mary retreated to her house. It seems that in the town she had grown up in, cancer was a shameful thing, one you kept a secret for as long as you could. It was Maine, it was winter, we left for work in the dark and got home in the dark and didn't notice that it had been some months since we had seen Mary.

That spring, my husband Greg, saw Mary briefly and told me she was clearly dying. A week later she was dead. My husband and son went to the funeral, I was away on a business trip. Once they got home, they had an astonishing story to relate.

Mary's two brothers from Newfoundland, on discovering that Greg and my son Dash, lived next door and were the owners of Rosie revealed that every day for the last few months of Mary's life, Rosie had hopped the fence between our yards, went to Mary's deck and barked to be let in. Mary's husband Keryn, or one of her brothers would open the door and Rosie would bound in, lick Mary's face, lay down next to her for awhile and then be walked back to our yard and let back in through the gate.

Mary's husband Keryn, said they never told us because they were afraid we'd lock Rosie inside if we knew she could jump the fence. That Mary loved seeing her and it brought Mary comfort.

At that moment, I realized that Rosie had a separate life from ours, with her own business, loves and obligations and she did what she had to do to meet them. The fence she leap over was 4 feet tall. Rosie continues to have a relationship with Keryn, Mary's husband. He always keeps a cookie in his pocket for her and she listens for sounds of him doing yard work. I don't know if there is anyone else in the neighborhood she visits.
Janice Lloyd in USA Today

Thanks, Soll

Granny Said To "Go Back"

NDE | 7 year-old child | A.M. Gwynn Hub Page
A three-year-old boy brought back from the dead after his heart stopped beating for three hours has told how he saw his great-grandmother in Heaven. The youngster - who is named only as Paul - claimed he met his relative and she sent him back to Earth.

Paul was playing on his own when he fell into a lake near his grandparents' house in the town of Lychen, north of Berlin, Germany. The child's grandfather later found him lifeless in the water.Paul was quickly dragged to the shore but the youngster remained unconscious. His father, who had had first aid training in the past, tried to resuscitate his son by giving him mouth to mouth and heart massage.

A helicopter took him to Helios hospital in Buch and doctors also tried to resuscitate him but he was unresponsive. They were about to stop because the boy had been clinically dead for three hours and 18 minutes - but then a miracle happened. The team managed to get his heart beating again, defying the laws of medicine.

The water in the lake was cold and the boy's core temperature was just 28C - it should normally be 37C. If the temperature had been higher, the team would have stopped trying to resuscitate after 40 minutes because the boy would definitely have been brain dead. Cold temperatures means the metabolism slows so body can survive with little oxygen.

Professor of Paediatrics, Lothar Schweigerer, is from the Helios hospital in Buch. He told Sky News: "My doctors were close to saying 'we can do no more' after two hours of thorax compression. He said this was "because the chances of survival had gone and the little lad must have been brain dead".

The professor added: "But then suddenly his heart started to beat again ... it was a fantastic miracle. "I've been doing this job for 30 years and have never seen anything like this. It goes to show the human body is a very resilient organism and you should never give up. The boy is happy and healthy. It's a wonderful thing." He told daily newspaper Bild: "Paul said to his parents, 'I was with Oma (granny) Emmi in Heaven. She told me to go back really quickly.'"
SkyNews via The Anomalist

Magnetic Fields Can Alter Morality

Magnets can alter a person's sense of morality, according to a new report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Using a powerful magnetic field, scientists from MIT, Harvard University and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center are able to scramble the moral center of the brain, making it more difficult for people to separate innocent intentions from harmful outcomes. The research could have big implications for not only neuroscientists, but also for judges and juries.

"It's one thing to 'know' that we'll find morality in the brain," said Liane Young, a scientist at MIT and co-author of the article. "It's another to 'knock out' that brain area and change people's moral judgments."

Before the scientists could alter the brain's moral center, they first had to find it. Young and her colleagues used functional magnetic resonance imaging to locate an area of the brain known as the right temporo-parietal junction (RTPJ) which other studies had previously related to moral judgments. While muscle movement, language and even memory are found in the same place in each individual, the RTPJ, located behind and above the ear, resides in a slightly different location in each person.
Read more at Discover

Via Neatorama

Lost is beginning to make sense.

10 April 2010

National Robotics Week | April 10-18

National Robotics Week recognizes robotics technology as a pillar of 21st century American innovation, highlights its growing importance in a wide variety of application areas, and emphasizes its ability to inspire technology education. Robotics is positioned to fuel a broad array of next-generation products and applications in fields as diverse as manufacturing, health-care, national defense and security, agriculture and transportation. At the same time, robotics is proving to be uniquely adept at enabling students of all ages to learn important science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) concepts and at inspiring them to pursue careers in STEM-related fields. During National Robotics Week, a week-long series of events and activities is aimed at increasing public awareness of the growing importance of “robo-technology” and the tremendous social and cultural impact that it will have on the future of the United States.
Via Make

Hacking The Planet

Should we put more pollutants into the air to keep Earth's temperature down? How about covering polar ice with reflective panels to cut down on melting? Or putting a giant umbrella in space to shade the planet? Some of the ideas for easing Earth's warming trend may sound crazy - but in a newly published book titled "Hack the Planet," Eli Kintisch says scientists may have no choice but to give them a try. "The only thing crazier than geoengineering is what we're doing now to the atmosphere by continuing to dump carbon dioxide into it," he told me.
Read the rest of the article at Cosmic Log | MSNBC

09 April 2010

Nanovaccine Stops Autoimmune Disease By Boosting The Immune System

The human body's immune system can quickly track down and kill cells that don't belong. Take certain kinds of bacteria: molecules on their surfaces flag them as foreign invaders, alerting the body's defenders to the breach and drawing a full-fledged attack on anything waving that molecular flag. But sometimes the system mistakenly attacks the body's own cells. The result is autoimmune disease, such as type 1 diabetes, in which the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas are attacked and destroyed by T cells.

Scientists have struggled to find ways to treat autoimmune disease without compromising overall immunity. Therapies that suppress the immune system carry the risk of letting infections and even tumors go unchecked. But researchers in Canada have found a way to prevent type 1 diabetes in mice by doing just the opposite—vaccinating to boost the immune system. The approach, published April 8 in Immunity, exploits the immune system's built-in safety mechanism—a group of regulatory T cells whose job is to squelch overactive immune responses.
Read more at Scientific American

Via 3 Quarks Daily

Real Animals + Stuffed Animals = Delight

More at BuzzFeed

The Monster Engine | Dave Devries

The Monster Engine is a book, a demonstration, lecture and a gallery exhibition. The premise for all three came from one single question: What would a child’s drawing look like if it were painted realistically?

Dave Devries:
One page shows a child’s monster drawing. One page shows my painting (based upon that drawing.) Two pages contain an interview with the child about my painting. These interviews have three embedded photos of the child talking. Because the interview pages separating pages one and four, there is a “cliff hanger” aspect that leaves the viewer in anticipation of the painted transformation. This never fails to get a great reaction. Once that has occurred, children and adults alike can read the interviews for the humor and insights about the art.
Dave Devries via Neatorama

07 April 2010

Vajazzle* Your Head | Baldazzling

London-based entrepreneur Philip Levine started going bald four years ago. He wanted to shave his head, but "didn't want to just leave it and be that standard guy who walks down the street, so I thought, 'Why not use it as a canvas for my creativity?' Then people can look while I walk." He showcases the various looks, including disco bald and rhinestone bald, on his website. "If you are bald, embrace you [sic] baldness. Make it a superpower," he says.
Philip Levine's Hair Designs via New York Magazine

*Vajazzle Your Vajayjay

04 April 2010

Not A Spiral

The blue elements in the image above appear to be a arranged in a continuous spiral, but in fact they form a series of concentric circles. Your brain will argue so strongly for a spiral that you may need to run your mouse cursor around the circles a few times to convince yourself.
Mighty Optical Illusions via Neatorama

Bisou And Edgar | Bath Day

Not a happy puppy. She's still trying to rub off the "clean."

And here's Edgar having his first bath back in March.

02 April 2010

Self-Defense With A Rolled-Up Magazine

Why do I think this is hilarious?

YouTube via Presurfer

Jerald F. terHorst (1922-2010)

Jerald F. terHorst, who served less than a month as White House Press Secretary to Gerald Ford, died yesterday at the age of 87. terHorst resigned in the wake of Ford's decision to pardon Richard Nixon, a choice the Times notes "was — and still is — considered a rare act of conscience by a high-ranking public official." terHorst's three paragraph letter of resignation is worth a read.
Via The Awl

Happy Easter